Liverpool or Southampton?

(19 Posts)
Prawnofthepatriarchy Fri 15-Mar-19 18:40:23

DS2, age 23, has been with his partner for 7 plus years. She's lived with us for nearly all that time and has minimal contact with her very dysfunctional family. I love her dearly. I'll call her Bess.

Bess is currently in the final year of an MSc, for which she will get a high first. She has now been offered paid PhD places in Liverpool and Southampton. The title of the PhD in Liverpool is slightly preferable but Southampton is a more prestigious university and is one of the best in Europe for her subject.

She's trying to decide. One issue she hadn't been aware of until very recently is the snobbery she encountered in Southampton among other PhD students (she went to a state school). That bothered her a lot. She's a very strong woman but she's also fairly introverted.

OTOH Liverpool has a reputation for having a high crime rate.

She's dithering. My son, very wisely, doesn't want his views considered. If she goes to Southampton he'll be able to keep his job if he works from home 4 days a week. But she must make the best choice for her. He suggested I post here for the wisdom of MN on living and studying in both cities

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ColeHawlins Fri 15-Mar-19 18:42:03

* Liverpool has a reputation for having a high crime rate.*

Check the actual crime statistics. You'll be surprised.

BubblesBuddy Fri 15-Mar-19 19:46:37

But if she’s not started the PhD at Southampton how does she know everyone is snobby? That sound very insecure to me. If it’s the best place to do the PhD for her career, She should choose Southampton. It’s hardly known as a snobby university! She cannot have met every student either and it’s a PhD, not an undergrad. Does it matter?

Imicola Fri 15-Mar-19 19:50:42

I studied a phd at Southampton and worked there for 6 years afterwards and in my department I wouldn't say there was any snobbery. I also went to a state school, and would say the majority of PhD students also did. I enjoyed my time there, but then of course every department is different! For what is worth though, Liverpool is also an excellent uni... My advice would be to go on the standing of the uni in the particular subject as that is more important than the general prestige of the uni.

FogCutter Fri 15-Mar-19 19:55:58

She needs to pick the best uni for her PHD so reputation, employability, academic results etc.

Liverpool is my favourite city in the UK, have lived there and had no issue with any crime, people are wonderful, friendly and welcoming.

BikeRunSki Fri 15-Mar-19 19:57:12

She undertake the research she is most interested in. PhD work is all consuming and takes over your mind and lifestyle for a while. You need to be interested it in to complete it.

mrswarthog Fri 15-Mar-19 20:18:37

OK, as pp have said, you may be wrong about the crime stuff. As a Liverpool Uni alumnus I feel a hell of a lot safer here than I ever felt in Southern England. Also, Liverpool Uni or LivJMU? Because LU is a higher rated RG uni than Southampton.


TheClaifeCrier Fri 15-Mar-19 20:23:34

I went to Southampton university, as did DH. I have to say there was quite a big contingent of "toffs" and Oxbridge rejects but it was also very diverse. I never encountered any snobbery.

Prawnofthepatriarchy Fri 15-Mar-19 22:14:21

She went for the interview and then visited what sounds like a sort of PhD common room. She wasn't there long but all the students who spoke to her were rather snooty. It's perhaps totally unrepresentative but she was taken aback and a bit put off.

I said the same about the crime rate. There are some rough parts of Southampton too. I've only spent a few days in Liverpool and that was a long time ago but I loved it.

I agree with Imicola. Southampton has a better reputation in her subject. The subject there is very good for her, just not quite as perfect as the one being offered by Liverpool. And if she wants to be an academic the university matters more.

Thanks for the replies. I'd welcome any more advice.

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BubblesBuddy Fri 15-Mar-19 23:08:04

Well they did have the good manners to speak to her! I would have thought that was a plus! It’s not fair to judge people by accents and I’m staggered a PhD student is so shallow and biased at the age of 23. What would happen if she had to teach people whose accents she didn’t like?

However. studying at this level is not about other people at the university, is it? Liverpool is RG and so is Southampton. Neither are Oxbridge but are equally solid choices. What real difference is the choice going to make to her job prospects? Surely as an expert in her subject she must have some idea of which university is best. As for Southampton being full of posh people! Really? That’s just rubbish.

Prawnofthepatriarchy Fri 15-Mar-19 23:23:49

BubblesBuddy, sorry, it wasn't their accents it was the attitude towards her. And it wasn't Southampton en masses, just the group of PhD students she met. She was very taken aback by their attitude. She doesn't have much of an accent herself, it's fairly RP. But I know what certain groups can be like. I remember seeing it in action in my youth.

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Phphion Fri 15-Mar-19 23:41:03

If she wants to be an academic, she needs to choose something that interests her and allows her to work with the best people in her specialist area. They are the people who will be gatekeepers into an academic career, who will write with her, introduce her to their networks, recommend her for jobs, etc., etc.

More broadly, she should consider things like the general reputation of the department, the research culture, additional funding support, opportunities for teaching, and so on. Also, in addition to the reputation of the person or people who would be supervising her, she should consider how well she got on with them, how many other PhD students they supervise and any general info she can pick up on them from her current department.

PhD students sometimes can be a little snooty towards mere Masters students. I wouldn't read anything more into it.

Imicola Sat 16-Mar-19 06:38:51

One further thought. So long as the PhD topic is in an area she is interested in, there is usually scope to influence the area of research, so a slightly better topic at Liverpool might not necessarily make much difference.

Pinkruler Sat 16-Mar-19 09:29:36

I would add that getting a decent supervisor is important-

Prawnofthepatriarchy Sat 16-Mar-19 12:29:23

It looks as if she's gone for Liverpool. The team she'd be with are slightly better, as is the subject of the PhD.

Thank you for all your advice. flowers

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leafinthewind Sat 16-Mar-19 12:34:49

I'd always say "choose your supervisor".

My PhD is from Southampton. I had one great supervisor and then one I really didn't see eye-to-eye with. That nearly cost me my degree. Southampton itself was neither here nor there.

Prawnofthepatriarchy Sat 16-Mar-19 14:38:40

She knows both her potential supervisors. It's a small subject area and she already has her name on a research paper, even if it's sixth. That's why she was approached by an American university.

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happymummy12345 Sat 16-Mar-19 16:37:35

I went to university in Liverpool, 250 miles from home. I loved it, i instantly felt welcome, and the people are very friendly. I think anyone from anywhere could easily call Liverpool home.
(I tell everyone this. My first week there I was crossing a side street, and there was a car turning into the street and a car pulling out of the street. BOTH cars stopped and let me cross the road. I was shocked as is was the complete opposite of where I grew up in east London).
Within 6 months I'd decided Liverpool was my home and I wanted to spend the rest of my life there, and that's what I did. (I met someone, got married, had a baby, and couldn't be happier to raise my family here).

Prawnofthepatriarchy Sat 16-Mar-19 17:40:49

Thanks for that, happymummy12345. I'll tell DS, who's a bit apprehensive. He's grown up in leafy Surrey and naturally Southampton is more in his comfort zone. I interviewed a lot of professionals in Liverpool for an article many years ago and found it a lovely city though I was only there a matter of days.

To be fair to DS, I can see his reservations. He'll have to change jobs to go to Liverpool and he's doing incredibly well in his current role. Due to serious health issues between 10 and 18 he has no qualifications but has done so well that he has his own department and reports direct to the MD. I wouldn't want to leave in his shoes. But they're committed and have been for years now so he'll just have to adapt.

One of my sisters in law went to MIT as a post grad and my brother just waited for her, as he was building his own career. I don't think a separation would destroy my son's relationship so perhaps that would work.

I'll just have to wait and see. I know how deeply they both care so I'll trust that. I'm concerned because, although she's a woman grown, I'm the closest she has to parental advice. Her own parents have been spectacularly useless.

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